The Uses of Magnets
Magnets are classified as a metal that generates a field of attraction for other metals, the resultant attraction being called a magnetic field. Many of the devices we take for granted on an everyday basis contain magnets and operate the way they do because of the magnetic field that is created. Magnets are imperative to all sorts of different products such as:
Magnets are also used increasingly for medical purposes. Magnetic therapy is becoming more and more popular and significant progress has been made in medical diagnoses due to the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This involves the use of extremely powerful magnets to help produce detailed images of the body. These types of extremely powerful magnets are known as rare earth magnets.
Rare Earth Magnets
Rare Earth Magnets are experiencing increasingly high demand due to their extreme power in relation to their size and in relation to normal magnets. These magnets also hold their magnetic charge virtually forever whereas normal magnets can weaken over time. This makes them ideal for newer, high tech applications and devices. There are two main types of rare earth magnets:
Due to heightened production of high end electronics, there is also an increase in rare earth magnet manufacturing. Rare earth element mining is currently a very rapidly growing industry and the need for the magnets is helping to push the growth. They are essential to the compact electronic industry (e.g. smartphones) as well as the green movement (e.g. wind turbines).
Manufacturing Now and In the Future
Currently it is estimated that China is responsible for 95-97% of the world's supply of rare earth elements. China has been the dominant manufacturer of rare earth metals for the last few decades. No other countries have the known deposits or the manufacturing infrastructure in place to the extent that China does at this point. That is expected to change as there is a rush for the rest of the world to catch up with the announcement of increased duties and possible bans being imposed on rare earth exports out of China in order to sustain their own increasing high domestic demand.
Manufacturing is expected to become more prominent in Canada, the US and Australia with recent discovery of larger deposits of rare earth elements. A sustainable and steady supply is imperative to continued growth in magnet manufacturing. Diversifying the supply and reducing the reliance on Chinese production is extremely important as well as it assures prices remain stable. Investors see the potential for huge growth in the rare earth mining industry and are anxiously funding new ventures to discover, develop and manufacture the deposits.